Manchester City maintained their two-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 defeat of Stoke as rivals Manchester United destroyed Fulham 5-0 to stay in touch.
City ensured they will lead the top-flight at Christmas for the first time since 1929 after wrapping up all three points courtesy of two goals from Sergio Aguero either side of a long-range strike from Adam Johnson.
“We are happy, but as I said three days ago, it’s important to stay top at the end of the season,” City manager Roberto Mancini said.
Manchester United enjoyed a similarly routine stroll at Craven Cottage, crushing Fulham to stay in second place.
Danny Welbeck fired United ahead on five minutes, the England striker sweeping in Nani’s low cross after the Portuguese winger took flight on a solo run down the right wing.
Nani doubled the lead on 28 minutes before Ryan Giggs scored the 19,999th goal in Premier League history to make it 3-0 just before halftime as United piled on the agony for the Cottagers.
A 35-yard wonder strike from Wayne Rooney made it 4-0 before Dimitar Berbatov completed the scoring with a cheeky back-heeled fifth.
Sir Alex Ferguson described United’s victory as “one of our best performances of the season.”
“It’s not an easy place to come to, but tonight the players were right on song,” Ferguson said.
Fifth-placed Arsenal went level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea after a last-gasp 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Arsenal captain Robin van Persie shot the Gunners ahead from the penalty spot on 17 minutes after Ciaran Clark pulled down Theo Walcott.
However, Villa came back strongly in the second half and Marc Albrighton’s 54th-minute strike — the 20,000th goal in Premier League history — got Alex McLeish’s side back on level terms.
Yet just as it looked as if Arsenal would be forced to settle for a draw, Yossi Benayoun headed in van Persie’s corner on 87 minutes to clinch all three points for the Londoners to make it eight wins from their last 10 games.
In other Premiership play, it was:
‧ Everton 1, Swansea 0
‧ Sunderland 3, QPR 2
‧ West Brom 3, Newcastle 2
‧ Liverpool 0, Wigan 0